Coloring Skin Tones With Prismcolor Pencils

Tutorial by Katherine Barber

I'm going to keep this tutorial very simple and visual for the most part. These steps are meant to be more or less a guideline as to how I go about coloring skin tones with prismacolor pencil. It's in no way meant to be the only correct way to go about it. People probably have come up with lots of other techniques. Also you can try experimenting with darker colors as well to make dark or tan skin. I just chose light skin for this tutorial. Feel free to use other shades of colors than what I recommend. These are just the ones I happened to use. :)

First, these are few keys to remember when it comes to skin-tones... whether you are working in pencil, paint, on the computer... whatever your medium!

1. Tones

Skin is made up of lots of different colors... NOT one solid peach/flesh color. In skin you can find shades of the primary colors: Red, Yellow, Blue. Also: Orange, Green, Violet, Browns, Grays, Whites ... etc. Anyone familiar with how to properly apply make-up knows about the undertones of skin. For those who don't know about undertones, this page may be helpful.

Also see this helpful Skin Tone Color Palette.

2. Shadows

To create shadows on skin I almost always use BLUE BLUE BLUE ...   I prefer a grayish-blue.

4. Warmth

3. For warmth I use reds and yellows.





To begin with I lightly shade in the skin with the Peach pencil, taking into consideration where the light is coming from.

*Other good pencils for this step: Flesh, Sand or Beige.


Blue Slate  Deco Blue

Next I add shadowy areas using the Blue Slate Pencil and the Deco Blue Pencil. Eek! She's looking sort of ill so far isn't she? :) So... we'll need to add some warmth.

*Other pale shades of blue would work just as well for this step.


Pink Rose Blush Pink Pink

Carmine Red  Pale Vermillion

In this step we add some life to the skin using various shades of red. You may notice that the skin now appears almost too "rosy", but don't worry!

*You can experiment with all sorts of pinks, reds, and orange-reds!


Spanish Orange

Next I add some Spanish Orange to the highlighted areas. This gives the skin a nice warm glow. But you may still think it's looking sort of ugly! ... Just bare with me now. :P

*Other shades of yellow and gold will work just as well for this step.



Now here's where some folks might disagree with me, but this is how I get nice smooth looking skin with prismacolor pencils. I just take a white pencil and color over the whole area... go ahead and apply some amount of pressure when you do this so you get a nice even coverage. You can also work with it and sort of blend areas of color using the white pencil. If you're afraid you'll ruin your work... try testing this out on another sheet of paper first.  After I do that, I sometimes will go back over areas again with colors such as on the cheeks, and lips... to brighten them up a bit if it's too washed out.

 You might also say, "Hey... but there's a blender pencil already." Well, I hate the blender pencil. Toss it in the bin. No good whatsoever. It makes thick areas of color get clumpy and weird looking. I just don't like it. Don't use it. I mean, sure, you CAN ...  but try a white or light colored pencil. It works better. :)

*I sometimes use other light colors for this...  such as a Cream or French Grey.


Sienna Brown


Next I add some darker shadows and outlines using the Sienna Brown.

*Terra Cotta or Mahogany Red also work well for this.



And last I add some detail and a few deeper shadows using a black pencil.

*You can also use different shades of grey for this or inking pens as well.


Finished portrait: